It’s hard to say why Laura Marling opens her new album with a suite of four songs that, taken together, are nearly impenetrable. Lumbering and lugubrious, they bleed into one another with rarely a spike in her voice or shift in tempo or even key. It’s a deceptive start to “Once I Was an Eagle,” the fourth release from this sage, 23-year-old English singer-songwriter. This is Marling’s most sonically arresting album yet, an electrifying trip through Marling’s psyche in a vivid swirl of instrumental flourishes. It’s the first time the music and melodies have matched the dynamism of her lyrics. On “Master Hunter,” she lets it be known that she’s guiding her ship: “You want a woman who will call your name/ It ain’t me babe,” she sings in a sly nod to Bob Dylan. Echoes of Joni Mitchell glimmer in the sad-eyed nostalgia of “Little Love Caster,” while a tinge of ’70s blue-eyed soul creeps into “Once.” You’d be hard-pressed to name another songwriter who sounded so fully formed at such a tender age. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL "Master Hunter"